Trinity 6, 2016

 

The Epistle. Romans 6:3-11

The Gospel.  St. Matthew 5:20-26

 

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost, Amen.

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The Epistle for today comes from Paul’s larger letter to the Romans.  In this passage today, our teaching is all about baptism and what it means to the one baptized.

 

If we are to continue our theme of Jesus telling Nicodemus way back now 5 weeks or so, that he must be born again, here we have from Paul the mechanism by which we are born anew, born from above…born again…of both water and the Spirit.

 

And we are told what it means.  This is no bare sign.

As also noted early in the season, the lessons are given to us for our admonition.  They are lessons on the Christian life and what it looks like and how we are to live…again, in light of the new birth.

 

Our own Prayer Book and Articles of Religion state quite clearly: “Baptism is not only a sign of profession, and mark of difference, whereby Christian men are discerned from others that are not christened…” Meaning that if you are baptized, it is not just a symbol that you are different now.

 

It is also a sign that you are regenerated and the New Birth has taken place.

 

It also means further, that we are grafted into the Church.  We are made an official member. 

We are now children of God. 

We are in the covenant. 

 

 

We are inheritors of God’s mercy and favor and we are very members incorporate in the mystical body of Jesus Christ.

 

We are washed, sanctified, justified.

We are visibly signed and sealed.

Faith is confirmed and Grace is increased by virtue of prayer to God. - XXVII. Of Baptism.

 

So much is happening at baptism as you can see.

 

So since we here are baptized members of Christ’s Church, and all of this applies to all of us who are baptized, Paul asks a very important first question.

 

This is the verse prior to today’s lesson.  He says: “How can we who died to sin still live in it?”

 

He asks this because he has just said in the previous chapter, that since we have put our faith and trust in the mercy of God….

….we thereby have been justified through that faith.

 

On account of the faith we have placed in Jesus Christ, we have peace with God.  We are now are peace with God.  His wrath no longer is set against us because we have faith and trust in Christ.

 

He went on to say that Christ died for us, while we were still sinners.  He didn't look for us to be worth anything.  He died for us despite our sinful condition.

 

Moreover, he says, since we have been justified through the work of Christ’s cleansing blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God.  Our lives have been saved by the life Christ gave up.

 

He calls the death of Christ applied to us a ‘free gift.’  Meaning we did nothing to earn it. We did nothing to deserve it.  The only thing we add to this equation is our sin.

So if in baptism we die to sin, he asks rightly …in light of all that he just said…How can we how have died to sin still live in it?

 

He is referring to a specific act in our past history.  Accepting Christ as our savior means dying to sin. 

 

Accepting Christ means not only that we are delivered from sin…sin of the past, but also we are delivered from its power as we move forward in the future.

 

“We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin.”

 

We turn from sin to God when we receive Christ or become a believer in Christ…or are born again.

 

 

How can a Christian, who is now a holy person, a justified person continue to live in sin?

 

The question is quite justified in and of itself.  Baptism is an act of faith.  It is the formal receiving of Christ as Savior and Lord.

It brings us into an intimate union with Him.

 

He tells the Galatians, “For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.”

(Galatians 3:27 ESV)

 

All of us who have been baptized into Christ have been baptized into His death.

 

Christ dies on the cross for us.  We are united to him in this death through baptism.  His death becomes ours in that it does away with sin.  It reconciles us to God.  It brings about sanctification…that process of working the desire for holiness into us and desire for sinfulness out of us.

Making us desire to do good.

For the one who has died has been set free from sin. 

 

And not only are we dead to sin now that we are baptized, but he goes on to say we are buried with Christ by baptism into death, in order that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.

 

We pray each time we meet in the Eucharistic service and will do again in a few minutes, “Forgive us all that is past; And grant that we may ever hereafter Serve and please thee In newness of life, To the honor and glory of thy Name; Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

 

Newness of life is to be a constant reminder and the constant goal.

 

Through baptism we are so united with Christ, we are united to Him in His death.  But it goes further than that.

Paul says, we shall certainly be united with Him in a resurrection like His.

 

Just as Christ rose from the dead. 

Rose with an imperishable body. 

Rose never to die again.

Rose in a physical body that you can see and touch.

 

We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God.

 

So we too are going to also rise to these see and possess things.  A body that does not age or die….because death will have no more dominion over us either.

A body that does not get sick.

A body that is however physical and can be seen and touched.

 

If we have died with Christ through baptism, faith, new birth, we believe that we will also live with Him.

 

And it should be noted again because of the force of the Greek original rather than our English translation which sometimes doesn't convey the full meaning or thrust of a passage or word…..

It should be noted that this passage is not simply saying that the believer dies and rises just as Christ died and rose.  There is more to it than that.

 

There is an analogy between his death and ours.  “…there is a necessary connection between the death and resurrection of Christ and the death and resurrection of His people. Such is the union between them and Him [between Christians and Christ] that His death and resurrection makes ours certainty. 

 

 

The life or death of a tree necessitates the life or death of the branches.”[1]

 

Charles Hodge of Princeton Theological Seminary in the 19th century wrote: “If, therefore, we are baptized into the death of Christ, united and conformed to him in his death, the certain result will be that we will be conformed to him in a holy life here and in a life of glorious immortality of the soul and body hereafter. All this is included in the life which flows to us from Christ.”[2]

 

So in baptism we are both dying and being made alive.  For one who has died [in baptism] has been set free from sin.  So we also must consider ourselves dead to sin and alive to God….in Christ Jesus.

 

 

 

Our own natural minds…the mind even of the Christian if we are not careful about this point… assumes that acceptance with God must be based on our character…must be based on our behavior, in order to be justified and right with God.

 

The truth of the Gospel is that it is the complete opposite!  This is just not natural to us this way, but the Gospel teaches the complete opposite.

 

God accepts us…accepts the ungodly.  He justifies the ungodly…in order to become holy.[3]

 

We cannot do this on our own.  We want to do this on our own.  Many think they can do it on their own.  But Paul makes clear here the order of events.

 

The declaration of Justified comes to us first, and then comes the life of holiness. 

 

Let’s hear from our own Articles again.  Article XI. Of the Justification of Man.

 

“WE are accounted righteous before God, only for the merit of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ by Faith, and not for our own works or deservings.

Wherefore, that we are justified by Faith only, is a most wholesome Doctrine, and very full of comfort…”[4]

 

And Article 12, which follows logically. XII. Of Good Works.

 

“ALBEIT that Good Works, which are the fruits of Faith, and follow after Justification, cannot put away our sins, and endure the severity of God's judgment; yet are they pleasing and acceptable to God in Christ, and do spring out necessarily of a true and lively Faith; ….

 

 

….insomuch that by them a lively Faith may be as evidently known as a tree discerned by the fruit.”[5]

 

Coupling this now briefly, with Jesus’ teaching today in the Gospel, we find Him speaking of a righteousness also.

 

“For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”[6]

 

The righteousness they were seeking was that of the standard set by the Pharisees and teachers of the Law.  This sort was insufficient to merit entrance into the Kingdom of Heaven.

 

The righteousness Christ demands is not merely external, but a true inner change. A true inner righteousness based on faith in God’s Word. 

 

Paul says this when he says: “But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it—the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus...” (Romans 3:21-22 ESV)

 

Commentator summarizes the Gospel today this way: “Certainly after the crowd heard our Lord’s description of the kind of person God blesses, they said to themselves, “But we could never attain that kind of character. How can we have this righteousness? Where does it come from?” They wondered how His teaching related to what they had been taught all their lives. What about Moses and the Law?

 

 

In the Law of Moses, God certainly revealed His standards for holy living. The Pharisees defended the Law and sought to obey it. But Jesus said that the true righteousness that pleases God must exceed that of the scribes and Pharisees—and to the common people, the scribes and Pharisees were the holiest men in the community!

If they had not attained, what hope was there for anybody else?”[7]

 

This was such new concept to them.  Their Law was all that was needed.  It surely had to be done with good intent.  But to rest only in obeying it outwardly…or even trying hard to obey it inwardly still falls short of the requirements.

 

Paul saw how this played out.  He wrote explaining to the Roman Church that the Law came to increase the trespass.  The Law came to really show us what we are to do and to show us that we truly are Law breakers.

 

But, he says, one act of righteousness, and by one man’s obedience,  [the righteousness and obedience of Christ fulfilling the Law] the many were made righteous.

 

If then we have been made righteous by the one man Christ Jesus, then I ask again, “How can we who died to sin still live in it?”

 

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.



[1] Hodge, C. (1993). Romans (Ro 6:5). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.

[2] Hodge, C. (1993). Romans (Ro 6:5). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.

[3] Hodge, C. (1993). Romans (Ro 6:6). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.

[4] 39 Articles of Religion.  Article 11. Of the Justification of Man.

[5] 39 Articles of Religion.  Article 11. Of Good Works.

[6] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2001). (Mt 5:20). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

[7] Wiersbe, W. W. (1996). The Bible exposition commentary (Vol. 1, p. 22). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.